New Delhi: Keeping up the Modi government’s efforts to have a consensus candidate for the presidential polls, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reached out to opposition leaders Wednesday, before the opposition meet that began at 3 pm, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources, Singh spoke to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge regarding the presidential elections. All three later attended the meeting called by Banerjee, during which opposition parties resolved to field a joint candidate in the upcoming polls.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said, “The BJP is keen to have a consensus over a candidate, and these talks with the opposition leaders are in that direction. This is not the first time that the BJP has done this, but the BJP always makes it a point to come to a consensus rather than going for elections. Rajnath Singh’s meeting is part of that consensus-building exercise, and he will be interacting with these leaders again.”
Sources told ThePrint that the Modi government was trying to arrive at a consensus with the opposition, but no specific names had been discussed at this stage..
“Apart from these leaders, Rajnath Singh ji also reached out to [Bihar Chief Minister] Nitish Kumar, [Odisha Chief Minister] Naveen Patnaik, the Samajwadi Party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, too,” added the leader.
The presidential election will be held on 18 July, with the nomination process having kicked off Wednesday.
“This is a preliminary exercise. Apart from Rajnath Singh, party president J.P. Nadda is also reaching out to other party leaders. Once this process is complete, a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance will be held where the names of the candidates will be discussed,” said another BJP leader.
According to another party leader, while the BJP is confident of winning an election in case the scenario arises, it wants to go through the process of consensus building first.
The BJP has authorised Singh and Nadda to consult with other parties including the opposition, and arrive at a consensus on a presidential candidate.
In a statement issued by the BJP Sunday, the party’s national general secretary Arun Singh had said, “In view of the presidential election, the BJP has authorised BJP chief J.P. Nadda and Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for consultation. They will hold consultations with NDA partners, UPA constituents and even Independent Members of Parliament”.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)